Share This Page

Reformists may sit out Iran's presidential vote

| Thursday, June 13, 2013, 9:45 p.m.

MASHAD, Iran — Iranians vote on Friday for a president to succeed the controversial Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but many voters question the value of their ballot, convinced that no elected government can solve Iran's economic woes and end its diplomatic isolation.

In a packed sports hall in Mashad, Iran's second-biggest city, candidate Hasan Rowhani on Wednesday night urged the thousands indoors and an overflow of 40,000 outside to end the extremism of Ahmadinejad's eight years by voting and convincing 10 others to vote with them.

The government has “turned every opportunity into a threat,” said Rowhani, a moderate-conservative clergyman endorsed by Iranian reformists as their best chance this year. “I promise all of you that the era of extremism will end.”

If his supporters turn out, Rowhani, 64, is likely to be a top finisher in the six-man race, with Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, the popular mayor of Tehran, his main competition. If neither receives 50 percent, a runoff will be held June 21.

A sampling of merchants and shoppers in Mashad's bazaar suggests turning out Rowhani voters might be the big challenge.

According to many residents of this city of 2.4 million, turnout is closely linked to the perception that the presidency is a weak post, subservient to the country's real supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. That realization might keep potential Rowhani voters home.

Yassir, 31, a spice vendor in Mashad's main bazaar, is one of those skeptics. Right now, he has no plans to vote, though he allowed for a possible last-minute change of heart to support Rowhani.

“The president has only so much power. He can only make small changes to policies,” said Yassir, who like others interviewed would not give his last name, for fear of retribution. “The supreme leader sets the general policies.”

Four years ago, Yassir was one of the many merchants in Mashad who wore a green wristband, signaling his support for reformist leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who, his supporters claim, was deprived of victory because of fraud in the election that gave Ahmadinejad his second term.

“We don't have a democracy. We have a hidden dictatorship,” said Sooroosh, 25, another merchant. “Four years ago, they didn't honor my vote. No one in my family will vote this time.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.